In 2019, regulatory penalties and warnings have underlined the industry’s need to enhance staff training and talent development. Nevertheless, does betting leadership understand the complexities of developing effective teaching modules for staff tackling a broader remit of enforced demands.
SBC speaks to Jaime Debono, Managing Director of iGaming Academy on nurturing and enhancing the industry’s learning capacity… A dynamic that all leaders need to pay attention to.
SBC: Hi Jaime, thanks for this interview. You have led the development of iGaming Academy since 2015. How has staff training and talent development evolved as an industry discipline during the period?
Jaime Debono (MD @ iGaming Academy): Immensely! I recall that when we launched the business back in 2015, we initially looked at key competencies being driven by regulation. Even with a mandate by governments requiring licensed operators in some jurisdictions to undergo staff training on topics such as AML and Responsible Gambling as a yearly requirement, it was still a hard sell at that time and most operators did not see the full value and ROI in undertaking training as part of the operational strategy.
Today, I can say that is far from the case, and training has become fundamental to most operators as well as service providers in the industry. Currently we train over 30,000 staff across 100 companies yearly and most of which are heavily involved in the structuring, delivery and overall course content through a process where we enable our clients to customise our off-the-shelf courses to be in more in line with internal policies and corporate structure.
SBC: At present, how hard is it to develop effective and progressive training programmes for industry incumbents facing multiple changing dynamics (regulatory demands, tech disruption, compliance requirements, etc)?
JD: Overall the process to develop training has smoothened out over the years through experience in understanding the right training methodology depending on the subject matter. Also, these days companies, regulators and experts in influential positions are more open to sharing their knowledge which enables Training Providers such as the IGA to create larger pools of contributors/trainers and accessible content. When it comes to regulatory framework, this area has been a big driver for us as we have had to develop a full range of multi-jurisdictional courses covering EU, UK, Americas, Africa and Australia regulatory framework in order to help our multi-licensed clients meet their requirements across the globe. In fact, our training is currently accessed in over 46 countries worldwide.
SBC: With regards to Staff Training programmes, why is an independent organisation such as iGaming Academy necessary for industry incumbents? Does this element display the industry’s shortcomings?
JD: Without sounding like too much of a sales pitch – we act as an extension to the Learning and Development departments of companies by handling all training R&D, development and delivery through either our e-learning platform or accredited classroom-based courses. This enables companies to allocate more resources and time into revenue-driven areas such as marketing, affiliation, tech, BD and alike.
SBC: From your experience, working with betting operators, what form of learning tends to drive more results?
JD: This really depends on the subject matter and size of the organisation – for example, we drive training through 3 core formats; e-learning which helps companies of all sizes in any location build knowledge efficiently on a range of topics while adding their own company-specific material. Classroom training tends to deepen the knowledge gain for those staff with more content, interactions and scenarios – while e-learning does offer the same principles, these are more concise and shortened. And lastly, conferences and workshops which is an area that we focus on and find that although staff will gain a good understanding of the subject matter, this is much more subjective than traditional classroom and e-learning courses. We run 3 workshop-style conferences a year: ACE (AML, Compliance and Enforcement), Compliance Briefing (covering core and current regulatory and compliance framework) and our upcoming DiP (Data in Payments) which is happening on the 27th September.
SBC: Furthermore, where should the remit of training staff be held accountable – is this simply an HR process…who holds responsibility for this discipline?
JD: Good question and it’s one that we face quite regularly; it really depends on the training topics, size and hierarchy of the business. For example, larger organisations would tend to have a dedicated L&D team which funnel all training into the business through requests and budgets from different departments such as Compliance & Legal and HR.
Nevertheless, this is not always the case and we find the responsibility and decision-makers can vary, if a client is looking to implement compliance training as part of their regulatory requirements then this tends to be left in the hands of compliance-related staff and all the way up to C-Level due to the risks of fines and restrictions if not implemented correctly. If training is more focussed on SoftSkills or staff induction and development then this tends to be handled by HR.
However, in our experience and considering the risks involved in not having the right training strategy in place, the responsibility should really be driven by all senior decision-makers in the business.
SBC: As an industry stakeholder what have you taken away from 2019 regulatory penalties on betting incumbents. Where is the industry blindsided with regards to staff development?
JD: Without mentioning any company names, we have followed this quite closely considering that we regularly receive requests by regulators to provide proof of compliance training completed by our clients on topics such as AML & RG and have submitted 1,000s of audit records over the years – I believe that although news of fines seems to have become a standard these days, companies have also become far more compliant in their operation. I would also say that the compliance framework in gaming has become one of the toughest and costly in recent years when compared to other industries and that should not be underestimated. In our experience, training is an essential part of ensuring compliance across several disciplines as it not only builds staff knowledge of current and crucial legislations but helps ensure that staff follow the right procedures and protocols and avoid breeches.
SBC: Finally, moving forward, what debate or discussion should industry leadership be undertaking in terms of developing staff for future challenges?
JD: As gaming continues to grow in existing jurisdictions while new markets become regulated, the competition will become fiercer. This does not only refer to player market share but also staff retention. Through existing studies, it is clear that staff development is a key attributor to increasing employee retention and this really boils down to career planning & training, so naturally, it is essential for companies to have a training strategy in developing staff on an ongoing basis.
Jaime Debono – Managing Director – iGaming Academy
About the iGaming Academy:
iGaming Academy (iGA) is the leading training provider to the global gaming industry with over 40 courses available on core compliance and vocational topics. We train over 30,000 staff across 100+ clients in 46 countries via eLearning and classroom-based solutions, conferences and workshops. Utilising proprietary Learning Management (LMS) technology, the iGA offers a scalable system which combines off-the-shelf courses and bespoke training content that can be tailor-made to clients’ training requirements. www.igacademy.com